Spring is progressing rapidly, and botanising is now well worthwhile, particularly in churchyards and villages, where there are many early flowering bulbs. I’ve been out three times recently and there’s always been something of interest to find.
On 24th February I visited TF01Q west of Greatford, walking the bridleway that forms the boundary with VC55, and then in Shillingthorpe Park. The latter site had sheets of naturalised Snowdrop Galanthus nivalis, including many ‘Flore Pleno’ as well as flowering Butcher’s Broom Ruscus aculeatus. The most surprising find was a small population of Spring Snowflake Leucojum vernum, presumably originally planted but appearing established in otherwise semi-natural secondary woodland. This is the first record for VC53.
On 2 March I recorded in several villages in SK84 and SK85, adding records for early flowering species. There was less excitement, but I did add a couple of sites for Greater Snowdrop Galanthus elwesii, which can be distinguished from G.nivalis by the broad, grey-green hooded leaves. I also visited St. Swithun’s churchyard at Long Bennington, which is being managed as a nature reserve by the Diocese of Lincoln in association with the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust. It contains a wonderful mix of native species and garden species that have naturalised, as well as a wide range of trees and shrubs, including a venerable walnut, and will be worth a visit later in the season.
Last Thursday Chris and I headed to villages in SK94 and SK95, visiting a number of churchyards and walking round the whole of Boothby Graffoe village. The snowdrops were fading by this time, but primroses and violets are now making a fine show. We found two new sites for Bird-in-a-Bush Corydalis solida, which seems to thrive in shaded churchyards where the soil is deep and fertile and a site for Drooping Star-of-Bethlehem Ornithogalum nutans. We were also surprised to find a very magnificent Coastal Redwood Sequoia sempervirens in the churchyard at Hough-on-the-Hill, only the fifth site for this species in VC53.
We were blessed with wonderful spring weather for our first field meeting of the year in Thurlby on 3rd April, much more pleasant than our visit to Heckington in 2016. We started at St. Firmin’s Church and recorded in TF11D before lunch. This tetrad has been visited quite a few times since 2000, but never in early spring. Consequently we were able to update records for species such as Greater Stitchwort Stellaria holostea from the churchyard and Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa from Park Wood, neither of which had been recorded since the 1980’s. We added 45 new species for the tetrad, including Field Wood-rush Luzula campestris from the churchyard, Lesser Chickweed Stellaria pallida which was frequent in drought-prone mown grass and pavement edges, Maidenhair Spleenwort Asplenium trichomanes from a shaded wall and Dog’s Mercury Mercurialis perennis from Park Wood (I can’t think how that was overlooked previously!). We were also pleased to find a rosette of a Bee Orchid Ophrys apifera on a mown grass verge.
After a very comfortable lunch at Mary-Anne’s house a smaller group of us headed into the village to record in TF01Y, another tetrad with a good number of post-2000 records, but originating solely from Dole Wood. As expected, we recorded many garden escapes and ‘village’ species, adding 64 new species to the tetrad. It was good to find some rather diverse road verges with a mix of neutral grassland indicator species such as Cuckooflower Cardamine pratensis, Field Wood-rush, Meadow Buttercup Ranunculus acris, Bulbous Buttercup Ranunculus bulbosus, Common Sorrel Rumex acetosa and Mouse-ear Hawkweed Pilosella officinarum. Highlights among the garden escapes were a small population of Fairy Foxglove Erinus alpinus high on a stone wall and a patch of Yellow Nonea Nonea lutea under a hedge.
In total we recorded 155 species from TF11D and 132 species from TF01Y, and saw 222 different taxa during the course of the day. A very good start to the year, and a gentle way to exercise those identification circuits that are often a bit rusty at the start of the year!
On Monday Pete and I spent a day recording early spring flowers in TF05 and TF06, adding plenty more records for Snowdrop Galanthus nivalis in this under-recorded part of the vice-county, as well as a scatter of records for Green Snowdrop Galanthus woronowii and Greater Snowdrop Galanthus elwesii. However, our most interesting individual species was much less pretty.
On the banks of Scopwick Beck, Pete spotted two rather sad-looking fronds of a fern which certainly not one of our native species. I took some photographs, but we couldn’t bring back a specimen, because of it’s small size. A bit of investigation was required before I could confirm that it is Fortune’s Holly-fern Cyrtomium fortunei, a fully hardy garden species from central Asia, which has a scatter of records mostly in southern Britain, but is very rare in eastern England, only having been recorded from the Cambridge area. This is the first record for the whole of Lincolnshire.
We recorded in Scopwick, Metheringham, Dunston and Digby and ended our day at Dorrington churchyard, which proved to be the most exciting individual site. The grassland was fairly species-rich, with frequent Primrose Primula vulgaris, Cowslip Primula veris, Pignut Conopodium majus, Ox-eye Daisy Leucanthemum vulgare and Common Knapweed Centaurea nigra agg.. The hedgerow along the eastern boundary held a particularly interesting assemblage of species including Goldilocks Ranunculus auricomus, Betony Betonica officinalis, Crosswort Cruciata laevipes and Bugle Ajuga reptans, while in another corner we found a single leaf of Dropwort Filipendula vulgaris. Most of these species had been recorded previously, but not since the early 1990’s, and several were the first post-2000 records for TF05.